Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a $82.1 billion preliminary New York City budget Thursday with nearly $5 billion in reserves in case economic “dominoes start to fall in a bad way,” he said.
De Blasio said at a City Hall presentation that his fiscal blueprint for the year beginning July 1 was a safe one.
“Boring is good sometimes,” he told reporters, saying his administration is exercising “lots of fiscal caution.”
The proposal is a 4.6 percent increase over the $78.5 billion budget adopted in June for the current fiscal year. It represents a $1.6 billion hike in city spending for expenses such as a $15 an hour minimum wage for all municipal workers, the expanded use of gunshot-detection technology, more classroom seats to alleviate overcrowding and 327 new traffic enforcement agents.
The budget did not make allowances for a plan by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to shift more financial responsibility for CUNY and Medicaid to the city. De Blasio had said the “unfair” cuts would eventually cost the city $1 billion, but Cuomo said it won’t cost “a penny” after he and the mayor work together to reduce bureaucracy and find savings.
“I’m not saying we don’t have to worry about it; I’m saying I’m taking the governor at his word and I will hold him to that word,” de Blasio said, adding he’d fight cuts “by any means necessary.”
City Council finance committee chair Julissa Ferraras-Copeland (D-Queens) said lawmakers will be “watchful” on the governor’s promise.
Asked about the exclusion of the cuts from de Blasio’s fiscal blueprint, Doug Turetsky, chief of staff to the city’s Independent Budget Office, said, “If you put it in the budgety . . . ou’re saying, ‘You win. OK, we’ll pay.’ ”
The budget does not mandate cuts to city agencies, raise taxes or call for city worker layoffs.
The increases in spending account for about $740 million in agency spending with the balance going to other costs, such as pension obligations, according to de Blasio spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick.
Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, said the mayor’s presentation concerned her because there’s an increase in spending without expense offsets.
“We’re seeing additional costs and no real savings at the agency level,” Kellermann said.
The budget accounts for a $15-an-hour minimum wage for all city employees and contracted social service workers at a cost of $115 million.
It includes an additional $3 million for ShotSpotter, $868 million toward a five-year capital plan to add 11,800 school seats, $5.3 million for increased parks security in light of an alleged Brownsville gang rape earlier this month, $53.7 million more to combat homelessness and $12 million for 327 new traffic enforcement agents.
It provides a $337 million infusion to the financially troubled NYC Health and Hospitals, the city’s network of 11 hospitals and 70 clinics and treatment centers. De Blasio said the system is struggling after the federal government cut reimbursements for uninsured patients.
De Blasio’s plan includes $3.4 billion in reserves for the city’s retirees health benefits trust fund, $1 billion in its general reserve and $500 million in the capital stabilization reserve.
If “economic storm clouds nationally and globally” led to a downturn, “we as New York City have to protect ourselves,” the mayor said.
By spring, de Blasio must present a revised budget. The City Council will convene hearings, and negotiations between de Blasio’s office and the council will produce a final budget.
The deadline is the end of June, and the process will conclude with a ceremonial handshake under the rotunda of City Hall.